Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1087 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 2

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: Before resum­ing dis­cus­sion about the Swe­den Democ­rats, we review infor­ma­tion about the over­lap between Wik­iLeaks and CIA deriv­a­tives such as the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors. (In our pre­vi­ous pro­gram, we not­ed that both the Pirate Bay website–which host­ed WikiLeaks–and the Swe­den Democ­rats were financed by Swedish fas­cist Carl Lund­strom.) In this con­text, one should remem­ber in con­nec­tion with the alle­ga­tions of Russ­ian pri­ma­cy in the for­eign sup­port for Swe­den Democ­rats, that the CIA’s hack­ing tools are designed to mim­ic Russ­ian cyber activ­i­ty.

After review of Carl Lund­strom’s financ­ing of the Swe­den Democ­rats, as well as his cen­tral role in financ­ing the Pirate Bay site (which host­ed Wik­iLeaks, cour­tesy of Joran Jermas/Israel Shamir), we delve into the oper­a­tions of Lund­strom’s Swe­den Demo­c­rat asso­ciates.

Uti­liz­ing the anti-immi­grant theme uti­lized with great effect by fas­cists around the world, the Swe­den Democ­rats are gain­ing ground on the Swedish polit­i­cal land­scape.

Key points of dis­cus­sion include: The Nazi ori­gins of the Swe­den Democ­rats; the Waf­fen SS back­ground of one of the par­ty’s founders; net­work­ing of the Swe­den Democ­rats with fas­cists and reac­tionar­ies in oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing the U.S., France and Ger­many; the piv­otal role of the inter­net in advanc­ing the for­tunes of the Swe­den Democ­rats.

Next, we exam­ine the rise of Jair Bol­sonaro’s fas­cist gov­ern­ment.

Again, in recent pro­grams, we have exam­ined the pro­found role of online tech­nol­o­gy in the pro­mo­tion of fas­cism, as well as over­lap­ping areas of intel­li­gence activ­i­ty. In that con­text, it is vital to remem­ber that the Inter­net was devel­oped as a weapon, with the focus of the tech­nol­o­gy being coun­terin­sur­gency.

In Brazil, the rise of Jair Bol­sonaro’s fas­cist gov­ern­ment received deci­sive momen­tum from YouTube, which is trans­form­ing the polit­i­cal land­scape in Brazil, as it is in this coun­try.

. . . . In col­or­ful and para­noid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused fem­i­nists, teach­ers and main­stream politi­cians of wag­ing vast con­spir­a­cies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube rec­om­mend­ed videos from oth­er far-right fig­ures. One was a law­mak­er named Jair Bol­sonaro, then a mar­gin­al fig­ure in nation­al pol­i­tics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right com­mu­ni­ty in Brazil, where the plat­form has become more wide­ly watched than all but one TV chan­nel. Last year, he became Pres­i­dent Bol­sonaro.

‘YouTube became the social media plat­form of the Brazil­ian right,’ said Mr. Dominguez, now a lanky 17-year-old who says he, too, plans to seek polit­i­cal office. . . .

Two excerpts from the sto­ry below encap­su­late and epit­o­mize the grow­ing, suc­cess­ful man­i­fes­ta­tion of inter­net fas­cism: “An Ecosys­tem of Hate” and the “Dic­ta­tor­ship of the ‘Like’ ”

“. . . . An Ecosys­tem of Hate

. . . . As the far right rose, many of its lead­ing voic­es had learned to weaponize the con­spir­a­cy videos, offer­ing their vast audi­ences a tar­get: peo­ple to blame. Even­tu­al­ly, the YouTube con­spir­acists turned their spot­light on Deb­o­ra Diniz, a women’s rights activist whose abor­tion advo­ca­cy had long made her a tar­get of the far right.

Bernar­do Küster, a YouTube star whose home­made rants had won him 750,000 sub­scribers and an endorse­ment from Mr. Bol­sonaro, accused her of involve­ment in the sup­posed Zika plots. . . . .

. . . . As far-right and con­spir­a­cy chan­nels began cit­ing one anoth­er, YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem learned to string their videos togeth­er. How­ev­er implau­si­ble any indi­vid­ual rumor might be on its own, joined togeth­er, they cre­at­ed the impres­sion that dozens of dis­parate sources were reveal­ing the same ter­ri­fy­ing truth.

“It feels like the con­nec­tion is made by the view­er, but the con­nec­tion is made by the sys­tem,” Ms. Diniz said.

Threats of rape and tor­ture filled Ms. Diniz’s phone and email. Some cit­ed her dai­ly rou­tines. Many echoed claims from Mr. Küster’s videos, she said.

Mr. Küster glee­ful­ly men­tioned, though nev­er explic­it­ly endorsed, the threats. That kept him just with­in YouTube’s rules.

When the uni­ver­si­ty where Ms. Diniz taught received a warn­ing that a gun­man would shoot her and her stu­dents, and the police said they could no longer guar­an­tee her safe­ty, she left Brazil. . . .

” . . . . ‘The Dic­ta­tor­ship of the Like’

Ground zero for pol­i­tics by YouTube may be the São Paulo head­quar­ters of Movi­men­to Brasil Livre, which formed to agi­tate for the 2016 impeach­ment of the left-wing Pres­i­dent Dil­ma Rouss­eff. Its mem­bers trend young, mid­dle-class, right-wing and extreme­ly online.

Renan San­tos, the group’s nation­al coor­di­na­tor, ges­tured to a door marked ‘the YouTube Divi­sion’ and said, ‘This is the heart of things.’

Inside, eight young men poked at edit­ing soft­ware. One was styl­iz­ing an image of Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni for a video argu­ing that fas­cism had been wrong­ly blamed on the right. . . .

. . . . The group’s co-founder, a man-bunned for­mer rock gui­tarist name Pedro D’Eyrot, said ‘we have some­thing here that we call the dic­ta­tor­ship of the like.’

Real­i­ty, he said, is shaped by what­ev­er mes­sage goes most viral.
Even as he spoke, a two-hour YouTube video was cap­ti­vat­ing the nation. Titled ‘1964′ for the year of Brazil’s mil­i­tary coup, it argued that the takeover had been nec­es­sary to save Brazil from com­mu­nism.
Mr. Dominguez, the teenag­er learn­ing to play gui­tar, said the video per­suad­ed him that his teach­ers had fab­ri­cat­ed the hor­rors of mil­i­tary rule.

Ms. Borges, the his­to­ry teacher vil­i­fied on YouTube, said it brought back mem­o­ries of mil­i­tary cur­fews, dis­ap­peared activists and police beat­ings. ‘I don’t think I’ve had my last beat­ing,’ she said. . . .”

1a. In FTR #‘s 724, 725, 732, 745, 755 and 917,  we have detailed the fas­cist and far right-wing ide­ol­o­gy, asso­ci­a­tions and pol­i­tics of Julian Assange and Wik­iLeaks.

Here, we review the links between the Wik­iLeaks milieu and the Tor/CIA

Tor, Appel­baum, Assange and Wik­iLeaks:

  1. Became increas­ing­ly inter­twined, enjoy­ing acco­lades from many, appar­ent­ly unsus­pect­ing, groups: ” . . . .  His [Appel­baum’s] asso­ci­a­tion with Wik­iLeaks and Assange boost­ed the Tor Pro­jec­t’s pub­lic pro­file and rad­i­cal cre­den­tials. Sup­port and acco­lades poured in from jour­nal­ists, pri­va­cy orga­ni­za­tions, and gov­ern­ment watch­dogs. The Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union part­nered with Appel­baum on an Inter­net pri­va­cy project, and New York’s Whit­ney Museum—one of the lead­ing mod­ern art muse­ums in the world—invited him for a ‘Sur­veil­lance Teach-In.’ The Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion gave Tor its Pio­neer Award, and Roger Din­gle­dine made in on For­eign Pol­i­cy mag­a­zine’s Top 100 Glob­al Thinkers for pro­tect­ing ‘any­one and every­one from the dan­gers of Big Broth­er.’ . . . .”
  2.  Dif­fered fun­da­men­tal­ly from the accept­ed text: ” . . . . With Julian Assange endors­ing Tor, reporters assumed that the US gov­ern­ment saw the anonymi­ty non­prof­it as a threat. But inter­nal doc­u­ments obtained through FOIA from the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors, as well as analy­sis of Tor’s gov­ern­ment con­tracts paint a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. They reveal that Appel­baum and Din­gle­dine worked with Assange on secur­ing Wik­iLeaks with Tor since late 2008 and that they kept their han­dlers at the BBG informed about their rela­tion­ship and even pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion about the inner work­ings of Wik­iLeak­s’s secure sub­mis­sion sys­tem. . . .”
  3. Did not adverse­ly affect the gov­ern­ment fund­ing of Tor at all, as might be expect­ed by the super­fi­cial appar­ent real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion: ” . . . . Per­haps most telling was that sup­port from the BBG [read “CIA”–D.E.] con­tin­ued even after Wik­iLeaks began pub­lish­ing clas­si­fied gov­ern­ment infor­ma­tion and Appel­baum became the tar­get of a larg­er Depart­ment of Jus­tice inves­ti­ga­tion into Wik­iLeaks. For exam­ple, on July 31, 2010, CNET report­ed that Appel­baum had been detained at the Las Vegas air­port and ques­tioned about his rela­tion­ship with Wik­iLeaks. News of the deten­tion made head­lines around the world, once again high­light­ing Appel­baum’s close ties to Julian Assange. And a week lat­er, Tor’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Andrew Lew­man, clear­ly wor­ried that this might affect Tor’s fund­ing, emailed Ken Berman at the BBG in the hopes of smooth­ing things over and answer­ing ‘any ques­tions you may have about the recent press regard­ing Jake and Wik­iLeaks.’ But Lew­man was in for a pleas­ant sur­prise: Roger Din­gle­dine had been keep­ing folks at the BBG in the loop, and every­thing seemed to be okay. ‘Great stuff, thx. Roger answered a num­ber of ques­tions when he met us this week in DC,’ Berman replied. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . In 2011 con­tracts came in with­out a hitch–$150,000 from the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors and $227,118 from the State Depart­ment. Tor was even able to snag a big chunk of mon­ey from the Pen­ta­gon: a new $503,706 annu­al con­tract from the Space and Naval War­fare Sys­tems Com­mand, an elite infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence unit that hous­es a top-secret cyber-war­fare divi­sion.The Navy was passed through SRI, the old Stan­ford mil­i­tary con­trac­tor that had done coun­terin­sur­gency, net­work­ing, and chem­i­cal weapons work for ARPA back in the 1960s and 1970s. The funds were part of a larg­er Navy ‘Com­mand, Con­trol, Com­munca­tions, Com­put­ers, Intel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance, and Recon­nais­sance’ pro­gram to improve mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. A year lat­er, Tor would see its gov­ern­ment con­tracts more than dou­ble to $2.2 mil­lion: $353,000 from the State Depart­ment, $876,099 from the US Navy, and $937,800 from the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors. . . .”

1b. After review of Carl Lund­strom’s financ­ing of the Swe­den Democ­rats, as well as Lund­strom’s cen­tral role in financ­ing the Pirate Bay site (which host­ed Wik­iLeaks, cour­tesy of Joran Jermas/Israel Shamir), we delve into the oper­a­tions of Lund­strom’s asso­ciates.

Uti­liz­ing the anti-immi­grant theme uti­lized with great effect by fas­cists around the world, the Swe­den Democ­rats are gain­ing ground on the Swedish polit­i­cal land­scape.

Key points of dis­cus­sion include: The Nazi ori­gins of the Swe­den Democ­rats; the Waf­fen SS back­ground of one of the par­ty’s founders; net­work­ing of the Swe­den Democ­rats with fas­cists and reac­tionar­ies in oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing the U.S., France and Ger­many; the piv­otal role of the inter­net in advanc­ing the for­tunes of the Swe­den Democ­rats.

“The Glob­al Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nation­al­ism” by Jo Beck­er; The New York Times; 08/10/2019.

. . . . That nativist rhetoric — that immi­grants are invad­ing the home­land — has gained ever-greater trac­tion, and polit­i­cal accep­tance, across the West amid dis­lo­ca­tions wrought by vast waves of migra­tion from the Mid­dle East, Africa and Latin Amer­i­ca. In its most extreme form, it is echoed in the online man­i­festo of the man accused of gun­ning down 22 peo­ple last week­end in El Paso.

In the nation­al­ists’ mes­sage-mak­ing, Swe­den has become a prime cau­tion­ary tale, drip­ping with schaden­freude. What is even more strik­ing is how many peo­ple in Swe­den — pro­gres­sive, egal­i­tar­i­an, wel­com­ing Swe­den — seem to be warm­ing to the nation­al­ists’ view: that immi­gra­tion has brought crime, chaos and a fray­ing of the cher­ished social safe­ty net, not to men­tion a with­er­ing away of nation­al cul­ture and tra­di­tion.

Fueled by an immi­gra­tion back­lash — Swe­den has accept­ed more refugees per capi­ta than any oth­er Euro­pean coun­try — right-wing pop­ulism has tak­en hold, reflect­ed most promi­nent­ly in the steady ascent of a polit­i­cal par­ty with neo-Nazi roots, the Swe­den Democ­rats. In elec­tions last year, they cap­tured near­ly 18 per­cent of the vote.

To dig beneath the sur­face of what is hap­pen­ing in Swe­den, though, is to uncov­er the work­ings of an inter­na­tion­al dis­in­for­ma­tion machine, devot­ed to the cul­ti­va­tion, provo­ca­tion and ampli­fi­ca­tion of far-right, anti-immi­grant pas­sions and polit­i­cal forces. Indeed, that machine, most influ­en­tial­ly root­ed in Vladimir V. Putin’s Rus­sia and the Amer­i­can far right, under­scores a fun­da­men­tal irony of this polit­i­cal moment: the glob­al­iza­tion of nation­al­ism.

The cen­tral tar­get of these manip­u­la­tions from abroad — and the chief instru­ment of the Swedish nation­al­ists’ suc­cess — is the country’s increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar, and vir­u­lent­ly anti-immi­grant, dig­i­tal echo cham­ber.

A New York Times exam­i­na­tion of its con­tent, per­son­nel and traf­fic pat­terns illus­trates how for­eign state and non­state actors have helped to give viral momen­tum to a clutch of Swedish far-right web­sites.

Russ­ian and West­ern enti­ties that traf­fic in dis­in­for­ma­tion, includ­ing an Islama­pho­bic think tank whose for­mer chair­man is now Mr. Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, have been cru­cial link­ers to the Swedish sites, help­ing to spread their mes­sage to sus­cep­ti­ble Swedes.

At least six Swedish sites have received finan­cial back­ing through adver­tis­ing rev­enue from a Russ­ian- and Ukrain­ian-owned auto-parts busi­ness based in Berlin, whose online sales net­work odd­ly con­tains buried dig­i­tal links to a range of far-right and oth­er social­ly divi­sive con­tent. . . .

. . . . The dis­tort­ed view of Swe­den pumped out by this dis­in­for­ma­tion machine has been used, in turn, by anti-immi­grant par­ties in Britain, Ger­many, Italy and else­where to stir xeno­pho­bia and gin up votes, accord­ing to the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue, a Lon­don-based non­prof­it that tracks the online spread of far-right extrem­ism.

“I’d put Swe­den up there with the anti-Soros cam­paign,” said Chloe Col­liv­er, a researcher for the insti­tute, refer­ring to anti-Semit­ic attacks on George Soros, the bil­lion­aire bene­fac­tor of lib­er­al caus­es. “It’s become an endur­ing cen­ter­piece of the far-right con­ver­sa­tion.”

From Mar­gins to Main­stream

Mat­tias Karls­son, the Swe­den Democ­rats’ inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary and chief ide­ol­o­gist, likes to tell the sto­ry of how he became a sol­dier in what he has described as the “exis­ten­tial bat­tle for our culture’s and our nation’s sur­vival.”

It was the mid-1990s and Mr. Karls­son, now 41, was attend­ing high school in the south­ern city of Vaxjo. Swe­den was accept­ing a record num­ber of refugees from the Balkan War and oth­er con­flicts. In Vaxjo and else­where, young immi­grant men began join­ing brawl­ing “kick­er” gangs, rad­i­cal­iz­ing Mr. Karls­son and draw­ing him toward the local skin­head scene.

He took to wear­ing a leather jack­et with a Swedish flag on the back and was soon intro­duced to Mats Nils­son, a Swedish Nation­al Social­ist leader who gave him a copy of “Mein Kampf.” They began to debate: Mr. Nils­son argued that the goal should be eth­nic puri­ty — the preser­va­tion of “Swedish DNA.” Mr. Karls­son coun­tered that the focus should be on pre­serv­ing nation­al cul­ture and iden­ti­ty. That, he said, was when Mr. Nils­son con­ferred on him an epi­thet of insuf­fi­cient com­mit­ment to the cause — “meat­ball patri­ot,” mean­ing that “I thought that every African or Arab can come to this coun­try as long as they assim­i­late and eat meat­balls.”

It is an account that offers the most benign expla­na­tion for an odi­ous asso­ci­a­tion. What­ev­er the case, in 1999, he joined the Swe­den Democ­rats, a par­ty unde­ni­ably root­ed in Sweden’s neo-Nazi move­ment. Indeed, schol­ars of the far right say that is what sets it apart from most anti-immi­gra­tion par­ties in Europe and makes its rise from mar­gin­al­ized to main­stream so remark­able.

The par­ty was found­ed in 1988 by sev­er­al Nazi ide­o­logues, includ­ing a for­mer mem­ber of the Waf­fen SS. Ear­ly on, it sought inter­na­tion­al alliances with the likes of the White Aryan Resis­tance, a white suprema­cist group found­ed by a for­mer grand drag­on of the Ku Klux Klan. Some Swe­den Democ­rats wore Nazi uni­forms to par­ty func­tions. Its plat­form includ­ed the forced repa­tri­a­tion of all immi­grants since 1970.

That was not, how­ev­er, a win­ning for­mu­la in a coun­try where social democ­rats have dom­i­nat­ed every elec­tion for more than a cen­tu­ry.
While attend­ing uni­ver­si­ty, Mr. Karls­son had met Jim­mie Akesson, who took over the Swe­den Democ­rats’ youth par­ty in 2000 and became par­ty leader in 2005. Mr. Akesson was out­spo­ken in his belief that Mus­lim refugees posed “the biggest for­eign threat to Swe­den since the Sec­ond World War.” But to make that case effec­tive­ly, he and Mr. Karls­son agreed, they need­ed to remake the party’s image.

“We need­ed to real­ly address our past,” Mr. Karls­son said.They purged neo-Nazis who had been exposed by the press. They announced a “zero tol­er­ance” pol­i­cy toward extreme xeno­pho­bia and racism, empha­sized their youth­ful lead­er­ship and urged mem­bers to dress pre­sentably. And while immi­gra­tion remained at the cen­ter of their plat­form, they mod­er­at­ed the way they talked about it.

No longer was the issue framed in terms of keep­ing cer­tain eth­nic groups out, or deport­ing those already in. Rather it was about how unas­sim­i­lat­ed migrants were evis­cer­at­ing not just the nation’s cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty but also the social-wel­fare heart of the Swedish state.

Under the grand, egal­i­tar­i­an idea of the “folkhem­met,” or people’s home, in which the coun­try is a fam­i­ly and its cit­i­zens take care of one anoth­er, Swedes pay among the world’s high­est effec­tive tax rates, in return for ben­e­fits like child care, health care, free col­lege edu­ca­tion and assis­tance when they grow old.

The safe­ty net has come under strain for a host of eco­nom­ic and demo­graph­ic rea­sons, many of which pre­date the lat­est refugee flood. But in the Swe­den Democ­rats’ telling, the blame lies square­ly at the feet of the for­eign­ers, many of whom lag far behind native Swedes in edu­ca­tion and eco­nom­ic accom­plish­ment. One par­ty adver­tise­ment depict­ed a white woman try­ing to col­lect ben­e­fits while being pur­sued by niqab-wear­ing immi­grants push­ing strollers.
To what extent the party’s makeover is just win­dow dress­ing is an open ques­tion.

The doubts were high­light­ed in what became known as “the Iron Pipe Scan­dal” in 2012. Leaked video showed two Swe­den Demo­c­rat MPs and the party’s can­di­date for attor­ney gen­er­al hurl­ing racist slurs at a come­di­an of Kur­dish descent, then threat­en­ing a drunk­en wit­ness with iron pipes.

High-rank­ing par­ty offi­cials have bounced between Swe­den and Hun­gary, ruled by the author­i­tar­i­an nation­al­ist Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban. Mr. Karls­son him­self has come under fire for call­ing out an extrem­ist site as neo-fas­cist while using an alias to rec­om­mend posts as “worth read­ing” to par­ty mem­bers.

“There’s a pub­lic face and the face they wear behind closed doors,” said Daniel Poohl, who heads Expo, a Stock­holm-based foun­da­tion that tracks far-right extrem­ism.

Still, even detrac­tors admit that strat­e­gy has worked. In 2010, the Swe­den Democ­rats cap­tured 5.7 per­cent of the vote, enough for the par­ty, and Mr. Karls­son, to enter Par­lia­ment for the first time. That share has steadi­ly increased along with the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of refugees. (Today, rough­ly 20 per­cent of Sweden’s pop­u­la­tion is for­eign born.)

At its peak in 2015, Swe­den accept­ed 163,000 asy­lum-seek­ers, most­ly from Afghanistan, Soma­lia and Syr­ia. Though bor­der con­trols and tighter rules have eased that flow, Ardalan Shekara­bi, the country’s pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion min­is­ter, acknowl­edged that his gov­ern­ment had been slow to act.

Mr. Shekara­bi, an immi­grant from Iran, said the sheer num­ber of refugees had over­whelmed the government’s efforts to inte­grate them.
“I absolute­ly don’t think that the major­i­ty of Swedes have racist or xeno­pho­bic views, but they had ques­tions about this migra­tion pol­i­cy and the oth­er par­ties didn’t have any answers,” he said. “Which is one of the rea­sons why Swe­den Democ­rats had a case.” . . . .

. . . . For years, the Swe­den Democ­rats had strug­gled to make their case to the pub­lic. Many main­stream media out­lets declined their ads. The par­ty even had dif­fi­cul­ty get­ting the postal ser­vice to deliv­er its mail­ers. So it built a net­work of closed Face­book pages whose reach would ulti­mate­ly exceed that of any oth­er par­ty.

But to thrive in the viral sense, that net­work required fresh, allur­ing con­tent. It drew on a clutch of rel­a­tive­ly new web­sites whose pop­u­lar­i­ty was explod­ing.

Mem­bers of the Swe­den Democ­rats helped cre­ate two of them: Samhall­snytt (News in Soci­ety) and Nyheter Idag (News Today). By the 2018 elec­tion year, they, along with a site called Fria Tider (Free Times), were among Sweden’s 10 most shared news sites.

These sites each reached one-tenth of all Swedish inter­net users a week and, accord­ing to an Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty study, account­ed for 85 per­cent of the elec­tion-relat­ed “junk news” — deemed delib­er­ate­ly dis­tort­ed or mis­lead­ing — shared online. There were oth­er sites, too, all inject­ing anti-immi­grant and Islam­o­pho­bic mes­sag­ing into the Swedish polit­i­cal blood­stream.

“Immi­gra­tion Behind Short­age of Drink­ing Water in North­ern Stock­holm,” read one recent head­line. “Refugee Minor Raped Host Family’s Daugh­ter; Thought It Was Legal,” read anoth­er. “Per­formed Female Gen­i­tal Muti­la­tion on Her Chil­dren — Giv­en Asy­lum in Swe­den,” read a third. . . . .

. . . . At the mag­a­zine Nya Tider, the edi­tor, Vavra Suk, has trav­eled to Moscow as an elec­tion observ­er and to Syr­ia, where he pro­duced Krem­lin-friend­ly accounts of the civ­il war. Nya Tider has pub­lished work by Alexan­der Dug­in, an ultra­na­tion­al­ist Russ­ian philoso­pher who has been called “Putin’s Rasputin”; Mr. Suk’s writ­ings for Mr. Dugin’s think tank include one titled “Don­ald Trump Can Make Europe Great Again.”

Nya Tider’s con­trib­u­tors include Manuel Ochsen­re­it­er, edi­tor of Zuerst!, a Ger­man far-right news­pa­per. Mr. Ochsen­re­it­er — who has appeared reg­u­lar­ly on RT, the Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da chan­nel — worked until recent­ly for Markus Frohn­maier, a mem­ber of the Ger­man Bun­destag rep­re­sent­ing the far-right Alter­na­tive for Ger­many par­ty. . . . .

Links Abroad

. . . . Anoth­er way to look inside the explo­sive growth of Sweden’s alt-right out­lets is to see who is link­ing to them. The more links, espe­cial­ly from well-traf­ficked out­lets, the more like­ly Google is to rank the sites as author­i­ta­tive. That, in turn, means that Swedes are more like­ly to see them when they search for, say, immi­gra­tion and crime.

The Times ana­lyzed more than 12 mil­lion avail­able links from over 18,000 domains to four promi­nent far-right sites — Nyheter Idag, Samhall­snytt, Fria Tider and Nya Tider. The data was culled by Mr. Lind­holm from two search engine opti­miza­tion tools and rep­re­sents a snap­shot of all known links through July 2.

As expect­ed, giv­en the rel­a­tive pauci­ty of Swedish speak­ers world­wide, most of the links came from Swedish-lan­guage sites.
But the analy­sis turned up a sur­pris­ing num­ber of links from well-traf­ficked for­eign-lan­guage sites — which sug­gests that the Swedish sites’ rapid growth has been dri­ven to a sig­nif­i­cant degree from abroad.

“It has the mak­ings, the char­ac­ter­is­tics, of an oper­a­tion whose pur­pose or goal is to help these sites become rel­e­vant by get­ting them to be seen as wide­ly as pos­si­ble,” Mr. Lind­holm said.

Over all, more than one in five links were from non-Swedish lan­guage sites. Eng­lish-lan­guage sites, along with Nor­we­gian ones, linked the most, near­ly a mil­lion times. But oth­er Euro­pean-lan­guage far-right sites — Russ­ian but also Czech, Dan­ish, Ger­man, Finnish and Pol­ish — were also fre­quent link­ers.

The Times iden­ti­fied 356 domains that linked to all four Swedish sites.

Many are well known in Amer­i­can far-right cir­cles. Among them is the Gate­stone Insti­tute, a think tank whose site reg­u­lar­ly stokes fears about Mus­lims in the Unit­ed States and Europe. Its chair­man until last year was John R. Bolton, now Mr. Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and its fun­ders have includ­ed Rebekah Mer­cer, a promi­nent wealthy Trump sup­port­er.Oth­er domains that linked to all four Swedish sites includ­ed Storm­front, one of the old­est and largest Amer­i­can white suprema­cist sites; Voice of Europe, a Krem­lin-friend­ly right-wing site; a Russ­ian-lan­guage blog called Sweden4Rus.nu; and FreieWelt.net, a site sup­port­ive of the AfD in Ger­many. . . . .

. . . . But it came at a price: some promi­nent cen­ter-right politi­cians are now express­ing a will­ing­ness to work with the Swe­den Democ­rats, por­tend­ing a new polit­i­cal align­ment.

In Feb­ru­ary, the Swe­den Democ­rats’ Mr. Karls­son strode into a Wash­ing­ton-area hotel where lead­ers of the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean right were gath­er­ing for the annu­al Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence. As he set­tled in at the lob­by bar, straight­en­ing his navy three-piece suit, he was clear­ly very much at home.

At the con­fer­ence — where polit­i­cal boot-camp train­ing mixed with speech­es by lumi­nar­ies like Mr. Trump and the British pop­ulist leader Nigel Farage — Mr. Karls­son hoped to learn about the infra­struc­ture of the Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly its fund­ing and use of the media and think tanks to broad­en its appeal. But in a mea­sure of how nation­al­ism and con­ser­vatism have merged in Mr. Trump’s Wash­ing­ton, many of the Amer­i­cans with whom he want­ed to net­work were just as eager to net­work with him.

Mr. Karls­son had flown in from Col­orado, where he had giv­en a speech at the Steam­boat Insti­tute, a con­ser­v­a­tive think tank. That morn­ing, Tobias Ander­s­son, 23, the Swe­den Democ­rats’ youngest mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and a con­trib­u­tor to Bre­it­bart, had spo­ken to Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, a bas­tion of tax-cut ortho­doxy.

Now, they found them­selves encir­cled by admir­ers like Matthew Hurtt, the direc­tor for exter­nal rela­tion­ships at Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, part of the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers’ polit­i­cal oper­a­tion, and Matthew Tyr­mand, a board mem­ber of Project Ver­i­tas, a con­ser­v­a­tive group that uses under­cov­er film­ing to sting its tar­gets.
Mr. Tyr­mand, who is also an advis­er to a sen­a­tor from Poland’s anti-immi­gra­tion rul­ing Law and Jus­tice par­ty, was par­tic­u­lar­ly eager. “You are tak­ing your coun­try back!” he exclaimed.
Mr. Karls­son smiled.

2. In recent pro­grams, we have exam­ined the pro­found role of online tech­nol­o­gy in the pro­mo­tion of fas­cism, as well as over­lap­ping areas of intel­li­gence activ­i­ty. In that con­text, it is vital to remem­ber that the Inter­net was devel­oped as a weapon, with the focus of the tech­nol­o­gy being coun­terin­sur­gency.

In Brazil, the rise of Jair Bol­sonaro’s fas­cist gov­ern­ment received deci­sive momen­tum from YouTube, which is trans­form­ing the polit­i­cal land­scape in Brazil, as it is in this coun­try.

. . . . In col­or­ful and para­noid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused fem­i­nists, teach­ers and main­stream politi­cians of wag­ing vast con­spir­a­cies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube rec­om­mend­ed videos from oth­er far-right fig­ures. One was a law­mak­er named Jair Bol­sonaro, then a mar­gin­al fig­ure in nation­al pol­i­tics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right com­mu­ni­ty in Brazil, where the plat­form has become more wide­ly watched than all but one TV chan­nel. Last year, he became Pres­i­dent Bol­sonaro.

“YouTube became the social media plat­form of the Brazil­ian right,” said Mr. Dominguez, now a lanky 17-year-old who says he, too, plans to seek polit­i­cal office. . . .

Two excerpts from the sto­ry below encap­su­late and epit­o­mize the grow­ing, suc­cess­ful man­i­fes­ta­tion of inter­net fas­cism: “An Ecosys­tem of Hate” and the “Dic­ta­tor­ship of the ‘Like’ ”

. . . . An Ecosys­tem of Hate

. . . . As the far right rose, many of its lead­ing voic­es had learned to weaponize the con­spir­a­cy videos, offer­ing their vast audi­ences a tar­get: peo­ple to blame. Even­tu­al­ly, the YouTube con­spir­acists turned their spot­light on Deb­o­ra Diniz, a women’s rights activist whose abor­tion advo­ca­cy had long made her a tar­get of the far right.

Bernar­do Küster, a YouTube star whose home­made rants had won him 750,000 sub­scribers and an endorse­ment from Mr. Bol­sonaro, accused her of involve­ment in the sup­posed Zika plots. . . . .

. . . . As far-right and con­spir­a­cy chan­nels began cit­ing one anoth­er, YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem learned to string their videos togeth­er. How­ev­er implau­si­ble any indi­vid­ual rumor might be on its own, joined togeth­er, they cre­at­ed the impres­sion that dozens of dis­parate sources were reveal­ing the same ter­ri­fy­ing truth.

“It feels like the con­nec­tion is made by the view­er, but the con­nec­tion is made by the sys­tem,” Ms. Diniz said.

Threats of rape and tor­ture filled Ms. Diniz’s phone and email. Some cit­ed her dai­ly rou­tines. Many echoed claims from Mr. Küster’s videos, she said.

Mr. Küster glee­ful­ly men­tioned, though nev­er explic­it­ly endorsed, the threats. That kept him just with­in YouTube’s rules.

When the uni­ver­si­ty where Ms. Diniz taught received a warn­ing that a gun­man would shoot her and her stu­dents, and the police said they could no longer guar­an­tee her safe­ty, she left Brazil. . . .

. . . . ‘The Dic­ta­tor­ship of the Like’

Ground zero for pol­i­tics by YouTube may be the São Paulo head­quar­ters of Movi­men­to Brasil Livre, which formed to agi­tate for the 2016 impeach­ment of the left-wing Pres­i­dent Dil­ma Rouss­eff. Its mem­bers trend young, mid­dle-class, right-wing and extreme­ly online.

Renan San­tos, the group’s nation­al coor­di­na­tor, ges­tured to a door marked “the YouTube Divi­sion” and said, “This is the heart of things.”

Inside, eight young men poked at edit­ing soft­ware. One was styl­iz­ing an image of Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni for a video argu­ing that fas­cism had been wrong­ly blamed on the right. . . .

. . . . The group’s co-founder, a man-bunned for­mer rock gui­tarist name Pedro D’Eyrot, said “we have some­thing here that we call the dic­ta­tor­ship of the like.”

Real­i­ty, he said, is shaped by what­ev­er mes­sage goes most viral.
Even as he spoke, a two-hour YouTube video was cap­ti­vat­ing the nation. Titled “1964” for the year of Brazil’s mil­i­tary coup, it argued that the takeover had been nec­es­sary to save Brazil from com­mu­nism.
Mr. Dominguez, the teenag­er learn­ing to play gui­tar, said the video per­suad­ed him that his teach­ers had fab­ri­cat­ed the hor­rors of mil­i­tary rule.

Ms. Borges, the his­to­ry teacher vil­i­fied on YouTube, said it brought back mem­o­ries of mil­i­tary cur­fews, dis­ap­peared activists and police beat­ings. “I don’t think I’ve had my last beat­ing,” she said.

“How YouTube Rad­i­cal­ized Brazil” by Max Fish­er and Aman­da Taub; The New York Times; 8/11/2019.

When Matheus Dominguez was 16, YouTube rec­om­mend­ed a video that changed his life.

He was in a band in Niterói, a beach-ringed city in Brazil, and prac­ticed gui­tar by watch­ing tuto­ri­als online.

YouTube had recent­ly installed a pow­er­ful new arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence sys­tem that learned from user behav­ior and paired videos with rec­om­men­da­tions for oth­ers. One day, it direct­ed him to an ama­teur gui­tar teacher named Nan­do Moura, who had gained a wide fol­low­ing by post­ing videos about heavy met­al, video games and, most of all, pol­i­tics.

In col­or­ful and para­noid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused fem­i­nists, teach­ers and main­stream politi­cians of wag­ing vast con­spir­a­cies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube rec­om­mend­ed videos from oth­er far-right fig­ures. One was a law­mak­er named Jair Bol­sonaro, then a mar­gin­al fig­ure in nation­al pol­i­tics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right com­mu­ni­ty in Brazil, where the plat­form has become more wide­ly watched than all but one TV chan­nel. Last year, he became Pres­i­dent Bol­sonaro.

“YouTube became the social media plat­form of the Brazil­ian right,” said Mr. Dominguez, now a lanky 17-year-old who says he, too, plans to seek polit­i­cal office.

Mem­bers of the nation’s new­ly empow­ered far right — from grass-roots orga­niz­ers to fed­er­al law­mak­ers — say their move­ment would not have risen so far, so fast, with­out YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tion engine.

New research has found they may be cor­rect. YouTube’s search and rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem appears to have sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly divert­ed users to far-right and con­spir­a­cy chan­nels in Brazil.

A New York Times inves­ti­ga­tion in Brazil found that, time and again, videos pro­mot­ed by the site have upend­ed cen­tral ele­ments of dai­ly life.

Teach­ers describe class­rooms made unruly by stu­dents who quote from YouTube con­spir­a­cy videos or who, encour­aged by right-wing YouTube stars, secret­ly record their instruc­tors. . . .

. . . . And in pol­i­tics, a wave of right-wing YouTube stars ran for office along­side Mr. Bol­sonaro, some win­ning by his­toric mar­gins. Most still use the plat­form, gov­ern­ing the world’s fourth-largest democ­ra­cy through inter­net-honed trolling and provo­ca­tion. . . .

. . . . But the emo­tions that draw peo­ple in — like fear, doubt and anger — are often cen­tral fea­tures of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and in par­tic­u­lar, experts say, of right-wing extrem­ism.

As the sys­tem sug­gests more provoca­tive videos to keep users watch­ing, it can direct them toward extreme con­tent they might oth­er­wise nev­er find. And it is designed to lead users to new top­ics to pique new inter­est — a boon for chan­nels like Mr. Moura’s that use pop cul­ture as a gate­way to far-right ideas.

The sys­tem now dri­ves 70 per­cent of total time on the plat­form, the com­pa­ny says. As view­er­ship sky­rock­ets glob­al­ly, YouTube is bring­ing in over $1 bil­lion a month, some ana­lysts believe.

Zeynep Tufek­ci, a social media schol­ar, has called it “one of the most pow­er­ful rad­i­cal­iz­ing instru­ments of the 21st cen­tu­ry.”

Com­pa­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­put­ed the stud­ies’ method­ol­o­gy and said that the platform’s sys­tems do not priv­i­lege any one view­point or direct users toward extrem­ism. How­ev­er, com­pa­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­ced­ed some of the find­ings and promised to make changes.

Far­shad Shad­loo, a spokesman, said that YouTube has “invest­ed heav­i­ly in the poli­cies, resources and prod­ucts” to reduce the spread of harm­ful mis­in­for­ma­tion, adding, “we’ve seen that author­i­ta­tive con­tent is thriv­ing in Brazil and is some of the most rec­om­mend­ed con­tent on the site.”

Danah Boyd, founder of the think tank Data & Soci­ety, attrib­uted the dis­rup­tion in Brazil to YouTube’s unre­lent­ing push for view­er engage­ment, and the rev­enues it gen­er­ates.

Though cor­rup­tion scan­dals and a deep reces­sion had already dev­as­tat­ed Brazil’s polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment and left many Brazil­ians ready for a break with the sta­tus quo, Ms. Boyd called YouTube’s impact a wor­ry­ing indi­ca­tion of the platform’s grow­ing impact on democ­ra­cies world­wide.

“This is hap­pen­ing every­where,” she said.

The Par­ty of YouTube

Mau­rí­cio Mar­tins, the local vice pres­i­dent of Mr. Bolsonaro’s par­ty in Niterói, cred­it­ed “most” of the party’s recruit­ment to YouTube — includ­ing his own.

He was killing time on the site one day, he recalled, when the plat­form showed him a video by a right-wing blog­ger. He watched out of curios­i­ty. It showed him anoth­er, and then anoth­er.

“Before that, I didn’t have an ide­o­log­i­cal polit­i­cal back­ground,” Mr. Mar­tins said. YouTube’s auto-play­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, he declared, were “my polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion.”

“It was like that with every­one,” he said.
The platform’s polit­i­cal influ­ence is increas­ing­ly felt in Brazil­ian schools.

“Some­times I’m watch­ing videos about a game, and all of a sud­den it’s a Bol­sonaro video,” said Inza­ghi D., a 17-year-old high school­er in Niterói.

More and more, his fel­low stu­dents are mak­ing extrem­ist claims, often cit­ing as evi­dence YouTube stars like Mr. Moura, the gui­tarist-turned-con­spir­acist.

“It’s the main source that kids have to get infor­ma­tion,” he said.
Few illus­trate YouTube’s influ­ence bet­ter than Car­los Jordy.
Mus­cle­bound and heav­i­ly tat­tooed — his left hand bears a flam­ing skull with dia­mond eyes — he joined the City Coun­cil in 2017 with few prospects of ris­ing through tra­di­tion­al pol­i­tics. So Mr. Jordy took inspi­ra­tion from blog­gers like Mr. Moura and his polit­i­cal men­tor, Mr. Bol­sonaro, turn­ing his focus to YouTube.

He post­ed videos accus­ing local teach­ers of con­spir­ing to indoc­tri­nate stu­dents into com­mu­nism. The videos won him a “nation­al audi­ence,” he said, and pro­pelled his stun­ning rise, only two years lat­er, to the fed­er­al leg­is­la­ture.

“If social media didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Jair Bol­sonaro wouldn’t be pres­i­dent.”

Down The Rab­bit Hole

A few hun­dred miles away from Niterói, a team of researchers led by Vir­gilio Almei­da at the Fed­er­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Minas Gerais hunched over com­put­ers, try­ing under­stand how YouTube shapes its users’ real­i­ty.

The team ana­lyzed tran­scripts from thou­sands of videos, as well as the com­ments beneath them. Right-wing chan­nels in Brazil, they found, had seen their audi­ences expand far faster than oth­ers did, and seemed to be tilt­ing the site’s over­all polit­i­cal con­tent.

In the months after YouTube changed its algo­rithm, pos­i­tive men­tions of Mr. Bol­sonaro bal­looned. So did men­tions of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that he had float­ed. This began as polls still showed him to be deeply unpop­u­lar, sug­gest­ing that the plat­form was doing more than mere­ly reflect­ing polit­i­cal trends.

A team at Harvard’s Berk­man Klein Cen­ter set out to test whether the Brazil­ian far right’s mete­oric rise on the plat­form had been boost­ed by YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tion engine.

Jonas Kaiser and Yaso­dara Cór­do­va, with Adri­an Rauch­fleisch of Nation­al Tai­wan Uni­ver­si­ty, pro­grammed a Brazil-based serv­er to enter a pop­u­lar chan­nel or search term, then open YouTube’s top rec­om­men­da­tions, then fol­low the rec­om­men­da­tions on each of those, and so on.

By repeat­ing this thou­sands of times, the researchers tracked how the plat­form moved users from one video to the next. They found that after users watched a video about pol­i­tics or even enter­tain­ment, YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tions often favored right-wing, con­spir­a­cy-filled chan­nels like Mr. Moura’s.

Cru­cial­ly, users who watched one far-right chan­nel would often be shown many more.

The algo­rithm had unit­ed once-mar­gin­al chan­nels — and then built an audi­ence for them, the researchers con­clud­ed.

One of those chan­nels belonged to Mr. Bol­sonaro, who had long used the plat­form to post hoax­es and con­spir­a­cies. Though a YouTube ear­ly adopter, his online fol­low­ing had done lit­tle to expand his polit­i­cal base, which bare­ly exist­ed on a nation­al lev­el.

Then Brazil’s polit­i­cal sys­tem col­lapsed just as YouTube’s pop­u­lar­i­ty there soared. Mr. Bolsonaro’s views had not changed. But YouTube’s far-right, where he was a major fig­ure, saw its audi­ence explode, help­ing to prime large num­bers of Brazil­ians for his mes­sage at a time when the coun­try was ripe for a polit­i­cal shift.

YouTube chal­lenged the researchers’ method­ol­o­gy and said its inter­nal data con­tra­dict­ed their find­ings. But the com­pa­ny declined the Times’ requests for that data, as well as requests for cer­tain sta­tis­tics that would reveal whether or not the researchers’ find­ings were accu­rate. . . .

An ‘Ecosys­tem of Hate’

. . . . As the far right rose, many of its lead­ing voic­es had learned to weaponize the con­spir­a­cy videos, offer­ing their vast audi­ences a tar­get: peo­ple to blame. Even­tu­al­ly, the YouTube con­spir­acists turned their spot­light on Deb­o­ra Diniz, a women’s rights activist whose abor­tion advo­ca­cy had long made her a tar­get of the far right.

Bernar­do Küster, a YouTube star whose home­made rants had won him 750,000 sub­scribers and an endorse­ment from Mr. Bol­sonaro, accused her of involve­ment in the sup­posed Zika plots.

The very peo­ple work­ing to help fam­i­lies affect­ed by Zika, their videos implied, were behind the dis­ease. Backed by shad­owy for­eign­ers, their goal was to abol­ish Brazil’s abor­tion ban — or even make abor­tions manda­to­ry.
As far-right and con­spir­a­cy chan­nels began cit­ing one anoth­er, YouTube’s rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem learned to string their videos togeth­er. How­ev­er implau­si­ble any indi­vid­ual rumor might be on its own, joined togeth­er, they cre­at­ed the impres­sion that dozens of dis­parate sources were reveal­ing the same ter­ri­fy­ing truth.

“It feels like the con­nec­tion is made by the view­er, but the con­nec­tion is made by the sys­tem,” Ms. Diniz said.

Threats of rape and tor­ture filled Ms. Diniz’s phone and email. Some cit­ed her dai­ly rou­tines. Many echoed claims from Mr. Küster’s videos, she said.
Mr. Küster glee­ful­ly men­tioned, though nev­er explic­it­ly endorsed, the threats. That kept him just with­in YouTube’s rules.

When the uni­ver­si­ty where Ms. Diniz taught received a warn­ing that a gun­man would shoot her and her stu­dents, and the police said they could no longer guar­an­tee her safe­ty, she left Brazil.

“The YouTube sys­tem of rec­om­mend­ing the next video and the next video,” she said, had cre­at­ed “an ecosys­tem of hate.”

“‘I heard here that she’s an ene­my of Brazil. I hear in the next one that fem­i­nists are chang­ing fam­i­ly val­ues. And the next one I hear that they receive mon­ey from abroad” she said. “That loop is what leads some­one to say ‘I will do what has to be done.’”

“We need the com­pa­nies to face their role,” Ms. Diniz said. “Eth­i­cal­ly, they are respon­si­ble.”

As con­spir­a­cies spread on YouTube, video mak­ers tar­get­ed aid groups whose work touch­es on con­tro­ver­sial issues like abor­tion. Even some fam­i­lies that had long relied on such groups came to won­der if the videos might be true, and began to avoid them.

In Brazil, this is a grow­ing online prac­tice known as “lin­chamen­to” — lynch­ing. Mr. Bol­sonaro was an ear­ly pio­neer, spread­ing videos in 2012 that false­ly accused left-wing aca­d­e­mics of plot­ting to force schools to dis­trib­ute “gay kits” to con­vert chil­dren to homo­sex­u­al­i­ty.
Mr. Jordy, his tat­tooed Niterói pro­tégé, was untrou­bled to learn that his own YouTube cam­paign, accus­ing teach­ers of spread­ing com­mu­nism, had turned their lives upside down.

One of those teach­ers, Vale­ria Borges, said she and her col­leagues had been over­whelmed with mes­sages of hate, cre­at­ing a cli­mate of fear.

Mr. Jordy, far from dis­put­ing this, said it had been his goal. “I want­ed her to feel fear,” he said.

“It’s a cul­ture war we’re fight­ing,” he explained. “This is what I came into office to do.”

‘The Dic­ta­tor­ship of the Like’

Ground zero for pol­i­tics by YouTube may be the São Paulo head­quar­ters of Movi­men­to Brasil Livre, which formed to agi­tate for the 2016 impeach­ment of the left-wing Pres­i­dent Dil­ma Rouss­eff. Its mem­bers trend young, mid­dle-class, right-wing and extreme­ly online.

Renan San­tos, the group’s nation­al coor­di­na­tor, ges­tured to a door marked “the YouTube Divi­sion” and said, “This is the heart of things.”

Inside, eight young men poked at edit­ing soft­ware. One was styl­iz­ing an image of Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni for a video argu­ing that fas­cism had been wrong­ly blamed on the right.

But even some peo­ple here fear the platform’s impact on democ­ra­cy. Mr. San­tos, for exam­ple, called social media a “weapon,” adding that some peo­ple around Mr. Bol­sonaro “want to use this weapon to pres­sure insti­tu­tions in a way that I don’t see as respon­si­ble.”

The group’s co-founder, a man-bunned for­mer rock gui­tarist name Pedro D’Eyrot, said “we have some­thing here that we call the dic­ta­tor­ship of the like.”

Real­i­ty, he said, is shaped by what­ev­er mes­sage goes most viral.
Even as he spoke, a two-hour YouTube video was cap­ti­vat­ing the nation. Titled “1964” for the year of Brazil’s mil­i­tary coup, it argued that the takeover had been nec­es­sary to save Brazil from com­mu­nism.
Mr. Dominguez, the teenag­er learn­ing to play gui­tar, said the video per­suad­ed him that his teach­ers had fab­ri­cat­ed the hor­rors of mil­i­tary rule.

Ms. Borges, the his­to­ry teacher vil­i­fied on YouTube, said it brought back mem­o­ries of mil­i­tary cur­fews, dis­ap­peared activists and police beat­ings.
“I don’t think I’ve had my last beat­ing,” she said.

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